Sat bolt upright in bedA scream shattered the night, ripping me from a deep slumber. My husband and I sat bolt upright in bed and looked around, wide-eyed.

“What was that?” Miles tore his CPAP mask from his face and jumped out of bed.

“I don’t know, but I think we should . . .”

ElfAnother scream cut me off mid-thought. I grabbed my robe and pulled it on as Miles and I raced into the hallway, where we almost collided with one of my characters.

“What’s going on?”

Cleric was wringing her hands. “I fear your Young Hero is wrestling with another nightmare.”

I frowned. “He’s been having nightmares? How long has this been going on?”

Cleric lowered her eyes. “Several weeks now, and the problem seems to be getting worse.”

My frown deepened. “Then why is this the first time I’m hearing of it?”

Cleric blushed. “He asked that I not share this information with anyone, Mistress. I believe the lad is embarrassed. I only know about it because his best friend, your Gypsy, came to me and asked if I might help.”

I nodded. “And is there anything you can do for him?”

sleeping draughts and healing potionsCleric shook her head. “I have prepared sleeping draughts for him, and have even tried various healing potions, but I fear his nightmares still plague him.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Do you have any clue what’s causing his nightmares?”

“No, Mistress, and that is why I have not been able to create the proper healing potion for him.” She hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Perhaps you should speak with him.”

My husband frowned and put his hand on my shoulder. “Honey, if the boy’s embarrassed, it might do more harm than good to question him about it. After all, if he wanted your help, he would have come to you.”

I furrowed my brow and scrunched my lips into a moue. “I know you’re right, but I can’t just ignore it if one of my characters is having problems.” I sighed. “For now, I’ll let you deal with it, Cleric. Miles and I will try to get some more sleep. But please try to convince my Young Hero to come to me. Perhaps I can help.”

* * *

Morning was barely breaking. The yellow disc of the sun was just starting its ascent into a cloudless, azure sky. Dew sparkled on the emerald-green grass. Wildflowers shone like brilliant gems scattered haphazardly around the meadow.

Surrounding the pasture, sturdy fences stretched for miles, the boards so dazzlingly white that even in the early morning light the young half-dwarf could not look at them without squinting. The youth walked along the fence-line, peering between the boards, searching the pasture. A cool breeze tousled his red hair, and birdsong filled his ears. The day was perfect, and the lad had not a care in the world.pasture fence

Slowly, the landscape changed. The fences, the grass, the flowers, were splattered blood-red. The smell of copper overpowered the fragrance of the wildflowers and assaulted the lad’s nose. He bent over and wretched. As he straightened, he saw something in the field.

pasture fence splattered with red


A scream tore from the boy’s throat.


* * *

Young hero 2My Young Hero shuffled into the kitchen. His hair was unkempt, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he all but fell into a chair.

mug of coffeeWithout a word, Miles poured a large mug of coffee and placed it before the lad, who tried unsuccessfully to smile and nod his thanks.

“Rough night?” I quirked an eyebrow as I sat down across from my Young Hero.

He slurped some coffee and frowned. “No more than normal. Why do you ask?” I noticed he did not look at me as he spoke.

I sighed. “I ask because you look like something the proverbial cat drug in.”

The young half-dwarf shrugged and swallowed another mouthful of coffee. “Yeah. Well, I . . . ahh . . . I guess I did not sleep very well.”

I furrowed my brow. I took a deep breath and leaned closer to the lad. “Something bothering you?”

He glared at me. “Nothing.”

I shrugged. “Fine. But if anything is ever bothering you, talking might help.”

He scowled. “I will remember that.” He gulped down the rest of his coffee, pushed away from the table and stumbled toward the living room.

* * *

Second NightmareThe young half-dwarf and his companion had been walking for hours. The scorching sun beat down on them as they stumbled through the deep sand of the desert. A pack of jackals advanced toward them. Suddenly, men with swords surrounded them. At first, the men were protecting them from the vicious animals. But soon, the men turned their swords toward the boy. The young half-dwarf and his companion backed away. A hawk screeched and flew at the men. But the bird turned into a dragon and flew straight at the boy. The beast opened its gigantic maw and threatened to swallow the boy.

His scream went on for many long minutes.


* * *

Miles and I ran to the living room. My Young Hero was sprawled on the couch. My Gypsy was bent over him, shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up!”

I grabbed my Gypsy by the arm. “What’s going on? Was that him screaming?”

My Gypsy nodded and frowned.

I looked at my Young Hero, who was struggling to sit up. “Are you okay?”

The boy’s cheeks flamed, and he refused to meet my eyes. When he finally answered, he mumbled. “I . . . I must have fallen asleep.”

Backyard 050I frowned. “That wasn’t the question. Are you okay?”

The lad shrugged. “Of course! Why would I not be?”

“Well, I don’t know. What I do know is this is the second time I have heard you calling out in your sleep. We heard you screaming last night and now again. What’s going on?”

My Young Hero sat there, silent. His mouth was a thin, angry line, but his eyes were full of fear.

I crossed my arms over my chest and tapped one foot impatiently. “Well?”

The lad glared at me, the fear in his eyes replaced with venom. “Well, you should know!”angry eyes

What is happening with my Young Hero, and why does he think I know anything about it? Be sure to come back next week. Maybe you can help me sort out this mystery. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Fixtures Light Elegant Lighting Fixture And Supply Company Intended For Front Porch Light Fixtures Front Porch Light Fixtures

Magic or Technology?

Magic or Technology?

Looking foward to relaxingIt had been a long day. I was finally home, and all I wanted to do was grab a huge bowl of ice cream, sit down, put my feet up, and maybe watch some television with my husband. Instead, I found my characters waiting for me in the living room.

Out of the jumble of excited comments that greeted me, I could only make out a few. “Did you get it?” “Where is it?” “Can we see it?”

I scowled. So much for ice cream and television. “Can you see what?”

Elf facing rightCleric tilted her head and furrowed her brow. “We thought you said you were going to purchase a new . . . what do you call that type of magic box?”

laptopI sighed. Even after all these years in this world, Cleric and my other characters still struggled to understand some things. I tried not to sound annoyed when I answered her. “It’s called a laptop computer. Yes, I did purchase a new one. The old one was a piece of junk, and I was unable to use it any longer.”

My Gypsy pushed to the front of the assembled group. “So, can we see your new laptop computer?”

I shook my head. “Afraid not. I didn’t bring it home.”

“You purchased it, but you did not bring it home?” My Bounty Hunter gave me a perplexed look.

“I left it at the store. Their tech department is going to set it up for me.”Set up

My Old Dwarf gave me a look that clearly said he thought I was a bit strange. “They be settin’ it up? Where? Be they placin’ it way up on a shelf or on top o a big, tall piece o furniture?”

tech setupI shook my head again. “They’re going to prepare the laptop so I can start using it as soon as I bring it home. Between the time the computer was manufactured and now, there have probably been several updates issued. The technicians will install those updates for me. They will also install my preferred browser – the program I use to access the internet – and a word-processing program – the program I use for writing. They will eliminate any unnecessary software, and they will install a top-of-the-line anti-virus program.”

computer virus“Wait!” Dragon gaped at me. “Anti-virus? Did you not once tell me a virus, a type of germ, makes people sick? Do germs attack inanimate objects in your world?”

I tried not to chuckle. “Yes, I did explain to you that viruses and germs make people sick. But a computer virus is not a germ. A computer virus is a piece of code that can harm a computer.”

“Code?” My Arrogant One frowned.

I sighed. “Let me try to explain in terms you might understand. Computer code is a set of instructions that tell the computer what to do. Think of code working in the same way the words to one of your spells work.”

Sorceress nodded. “So, the anti-virus code is like the wards Dragon places on something to protect it.”

I nodded. “That’s a good enough analogy, I suppose.”

My Gypsy frowned. “So how long will the store have to keep your new laptop?” How long will it take for them to get all this done?”

“It should only take a few days, depending on how many orders they have to complete before working on mine. They’ll call me when the laptop is ready for me to bring home.” I looked at my characters and narrowed my eyes. “Why are you all so interested in my new laptop, anyway?”

gypsy-facing-right“We want to see what it can do.” My Gypsy’s tone of voice placed an unspoken duh at the end of his explanation, as if it should be obvious to me.

Backyard 050I folded my arms across my chest and glared at them. “You know what a computer can do. You’ve snuck into my office on more than a few occasions to read my stories on my desktop computer. You also took my laptop computer into the conference room to read the anthology that contained two of my short stories. You even managed to download the book onto the laptop. How you can manage that when you don’t understand technology is a mystery to me.”

My Gypsy grinned. “Cleric remembered all you had done to get the book onto your big computer, and we just did the same thing on the laptop. That is the nice thing about your magic boxes. Someone with no knowledge of your system of magic can still get them to work, just by pushing the right buttons. It is not like our magic, where you need to have magical ability in order to cast a spell.”

I laughed. “That is because it isn’t magic. It’s technology.”

“So, what is the difference between magic and technology?” My Foreman asked the $64,000 question.

“I think my Gypsy pretty much summed it up. Technology can be learned, but one must have magic within them.” The expressions on the faces of my characters told me they did not understand. I raked my hand through my hair and tried again.

turning on the lights“If I asked if someone would turn on the lights in here, one of you would walk over to the switch on the wall and flip it to the on position. The lights would go on. It wouldn’t matter which of you did it – it would work just as well for my Old Dwarf or my Foreman as it would for Dragon or Sorceress.” I looked around and saw all my characters were nodding.

creating light by magic“Now, if I asked if someone would cast a spell creating light, only those with magical ability would be able to do it. Even if the rest of us were given the right words to say and the right components to use – and we recited those words precisely and combined the components correctly – we could not produce light.”

examples of technology“But not everyone can use what you call technology, either.” My Young Hero frowned. “For example, I cannot drive a car. I cannot use your communication device that you call a cell phone. I cannot use the things we see in stores that you call cash registers. I cannot use the thing you termed a sewing machine that your friend uses to create clothing. And I cannot take a picture with that other magic box, the one you call a camera.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, I can’t use a sewing machine, either. My mom didn’t have the patience to teach me. But most people can learn to do such things. People who do not have magical power can never learn to cast spells.” I had a sudden idea. “Say, since the weather is improving, the temperature has gone up, and most of the snow is gone, maybe some of you would like to go on a nature walk with me tomorrow and take some pictures. I will teach anyone who is interested the basics of using the camera. That way, it might be easier for you to understand the difference between magic and technology.”

The next morning, I was surprised to find all my characters waiting to go on the nature hike with me. I looked at my Foreman and the two lads. “I thought the three of you would be working with your horses today.”

“We are easing into that.” My Foreman ducked his head, cheeks flaming. “We rode yesterday for the first time since the beginning of winter. We are all a bit sore right now.”

“A bit?” My Gypsy snorted, rubbing his rump. “More than a bit, I think.”

My Young Hero nodded. “We thought we would go with you this morning and do some walking to ease our muscles. We can do some more riding this afternoon or tomorrow.”

I smiled. “Okay, let’s go to Memorial Park in Shakopee. They have open water already, and for the past week, my friends from this area have been posting photos on social media. They’ve been seeing a lot of different waterfowl at that park.”

Squirrel near snowPhotographerThe first thing we saw at the park was a squirrel. “Well, this will be a good opportunity for me to show you how to use the camera.” I removed the lens cap and showed my characters how to use the viewfinder and shutter button. Then I explained how to use the zoom feature, and what settings to use. “Since this is your first time using a camera, I think you should leave the settings on automatic. Then you won’t have to try to remember so much.”

I snapped a shot of the squirrel and showed my characters how to view the photo I had just taken. “Okay? So, who wants to try?”

“Are you being honest with us?” My Arrogant One viewed me suspiciously. “We really do not have to intone an incantation or use any spell components?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I am being completely honest. This is technology, not magic. Have you ever heard me recite an incantation, or have you ever seen me use spell components, when I have been taking photographs?”

The elf furrowed his brow, then shrugged. “No. No, I have not.”

“You’ll see. The photos taken by those of you who are adept at magic will be no different than the photos taken by the non-magic users among you.”

All my characters still looked doubtful.

“Let’s go over to the river bank to start. I see a number of waterfowl on the ice by the opposite shore. There are also numerous birds swimming in the open water.”

writing spellcamera strapWe walked the few yards to the river, and my characters gathered close as I gave them their final instructions. “Take turns with the camera. Just be careful not to drop it. When you are taking pictures, you need to have the strap around your neck.” I took out a notebook and pen. “And I’ll keep track of who takes what photos so when we get home and I download them onto the computer, you will be able to see there is no difference between the photos taken by the magic users among you compared to the ones taken by those with no magical ability.”

The rest of the morning was spent photographing the various waterfowl on the river, birds in the trees, and a few mammals. When we got home, I downloaded the photos onto my computer so my characters could see the results of their efforts.

bounty-hunter“Okay, I think most of the photos turned out exceptionally well.” I turned to my Bounty Hunter. “You were the first to attempt taking photos. You captured three images – a pair of swans and a flock of Mallards on the ice on the opposite side of the river, and some really good shots of the Wood Ducks in the protected cove to the right of the first photo you took.”

My Bounty Hunter turned a critical eye on his photos. “Yes, I believe you are right – they are not too bad!” He smiled proudly.

foreman“Our second photographer was my Foreman. He took two pictures of a pair of Blue-winged Teal.”

My Foreman and the others crowded around the monitor to see. “They are not as good as I had hoped.” He looked downcast.

“That was due to the limitations of the zoom feature on my camera. The teal were pretty far away. I think these are good images, considering.”

gypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy clapped my Foreman on the back. “I bet my images are no better than yours. I also took photos of birds quite distant from us.”

“Yes.” I nodded. “You got six shots of some Hooded Mergansers which were only slightly closer to us than the teal. Again, not bad images considering the distance.”

young-hero-facing-leftMy Young Hero stepped forward. “I believe the first image I captured was from a distance, but the other three were closer. How did they turn out?”

“The Redheads with the Ring-necked Duck were about as far as the swans and Mallards my Bounty Hunter took, not quite as far as the birds my Foreman and my Gypsy took. It turned out very well, as did the images of the closer Redheads.”

My Young Hero looked at his images on the monitor and grinned. “You’re right! They are as good as the others!”

Elf cleric“And how do my photos look?” Dragon, in her customary guise of an elf maiden, pushed to the front of the group.

I brought up her images on the monitor. “You got some excellent photos of the Canada Geese!”

Dragon smiled and acquiesced.

Stu-04-NatGal“And my ducks?” Sorceress moved closer to the monitor.

I smiled. “Your Mallards are excellent as well.”

arrogant-one-facing-right“And my images?” My Arrogant One looked nervous.

“Your Trumpeter Swan images are superb!” I pointed at the monitor. “I particularly love this first close-up.”

The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “That is my favorite as well.”

ElfI looked at the remaining photos. “Cleric took some shots of birds in trees – a Black-capped Chickadee, three shots of a Northern Cardinal, and a Pileated Woodpecker. They are all exceptionally good.”

Cleric blushed, but a smile spread from ear to ear.

I brought up the final three images. “My Old Dwarf captured the only images of mammals today, other than the squirrel I photographed at the beginning of the hike. He got an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, a Red Squirrel, and an Eastern Chipmunk. Nice photos!”

DwarfThe dwarf grinned. “I be liken’ furry thin’s moren feathery thin’s. They do na be hidin’ so easy, and they do na be takin’ off the minute I be tryin’ ta look at ’em.”

I smiled at the old reprobate. “So, looking at the images you all took today, can we agree that the photographs taken by the magic users were no better than those images taken by the non-magic users?”

Everyone nodded.

“But ye do na be provin’ anythin’ by thet, lass.” My Old Dwarf shook his head.

I tilted my head and furrowed my brow. “I think I have proven that technology, unlike magic, can be used by everyone.”

“Eh, I been thinkin’ aboot thet, and I be sayin’ thet be twaddle. There be some magic items what kin be used by anyone. Back in me ownest world, I been havin’ a ring o takin’ me places.”Ring of transportation

I raised an eyebrow. “A ring of what?”

Sorceress cleared her throat. “I believe he means a ring of transportation.”

“Aye, thet be what it be called. Tha wearer o such a ring kin be goin’ anywhere jus’ by tha power o tha ring. Anywho, I been havin’ such a ring, and it been no problem fer me ta be usin’ it. Ye be seein’, lass, tha power be in tha ring, not in tha user. Thet means e’en a dwarf liken meself, what be havin’ no magical power whatsose’er, kin be usin’ tha ring. An’ I be arguin’ thet it be tha same wit yer magic box what ye be callin’ a camera. Tha magic be in the item, so’s even non-magical folk kin be usin’ it. It still be magic, though, not thet teck-noll-o-gee stuff ye be blatherin’ aboot.”

I gaped at my Old Dwarf, who stood before me with a smug smile on his face. How do I argue that point? I sighed.

So, what is your opinion? What is the difference between magic and technology? Are objects like cameras magical? Let me know what you think. Be sure to come back next week and see what my characters are doing. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

Not Exactly Déjà Vu All Over Again

For today's blog 001“Honey?”

My husband came into my office.

I looked up from the computer screen and saw a big frown on his usually cheery face. “Uh-oh. What did my characters do now?”

Miles laughed. “It isn’t your characters this time.”

“An historic moment! You’re frowning, and it isn’t because of anything my characters did!” I blinked. “Wait! This is weird. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.”

Miles frowned and stroked his chin. “I get that same feeling. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I raked my hand through my hair and frowned. “Yeah, but I can’t quite remember the particulars.” I shrugged “Oh, well. Back to the problem at hand. If it isn’t my characters, then what is the trouble?”

“The heat element in the rain gutters out front doesn’t seem to be working. We’ve got icicles hanging from the gutters, and the beginning of an ice dam on the roof. There’s already a six-inch-thick glacier in the roof valley over the front porch, and I don’t think today’s temperatures will be high enough to melt it.”

I gaped at my husband. “Hold on! I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before!”

Miles wrinkled his brow. “I think you’re right, but how could that be?”

“We had problems with the heat element before. Let me check my files. I know I kept the receipt.”

looking for fileNote 2It took me about twenty minutes to find the receipt in the mess I termed my filing system. “Yeah, here it is. We had someone here to fix it in December of 2017. And the repair technician, Guy, attached a note to the receipt. It says if the heating element ever fails again, please call another company to deal with it.

“Oh, that’s right! How could we ever forget that? Your characters caused quite the hullabaloo. I thought Guy and his co-worker – I think his name was Bill? I thought the two of them were going to have coronaries!”

I sighed. “Yeah. I remember that, too. And now the heating element isn’t working again?”

Miles nodded.

“Great. Well, why don’t we look at a few things before we make any calls?”

checked everythingWe checked that the unit was plugged in, we checked that the power switch was on, we checked that neither the ground-fault circuit interrupters nor the circuit breakers were tripped, and we checked everything else we could remember the repair technicians checking the last time we had a problem. They all looked ship-shape and Bristol fashion. We walked back to my office.

I frowned and chewed on my lower lip for a few minutes. “December 2017 . . . that was, what, 15 months ago?”

Miles nodded.

“Do you think we could risk calling the same company to send someone to look?

Miles shrugged. “Why not? I mean, what are the odds the same techs would still be working for that company?”

I brightened a bit. “True. Companies don’t seem to retain employees like they did years ago. I’ll give them a call and see if I can get anyone to come out.”

phone with caller IDI dialed the number and I was quickly connected to the company’s automated phone system. A recorded voice directed me to please listen to the entire message, as their menu options had recently changed.

I listened. The options sounded the same to me as they had 15 months ago – press one for sales, two for customer service. I pressed two. The same recorded voice told me to press one for billing inquiries or two for repairs and technical assistance. I pressed two, and got more options from which to choose. After navigating through all the correct options, I heard a different recorded voice sweetly advise me that all service representatives were helping other customers.

I looked over at Miles, who was waiting patiently next to my desk. “All service representatives are helping other customers. I guess they haven’t hired any more employees.” Back when we first contracted with them to install covered rain gutters and heating elements, the company only had a total of about a dozen employees, including Skit and Skat, co-vice-presidents in charge of rodent control in their warehouse.

Skit and Skat

The disembodied voice droned on, informing me that all calls were taken in the order received, and cautioning me to remain on the line. Then I was treated to some soothing music.

I glanced over at Miles again. “I’m on hold, with music. It sounds like the same crossover thrash version of the 1812 Overture, accompanied by yowling dogs and cats during a car crash that entertained me the last time I called them.”

noise 2

The music was blessedly interrupted at regular intervals by the sweet voice endlessly repeating how much they appreciated my business and assuring me that a customer service representative would be with me shortly.

Forty minutes later, I was finally connected with a live being, whose tired, irritated voice contrasted sharply with the sweet tones of the recorded voice on their automated system. After taking all the pertinent information, the representative put me on hold again, this time, blissfully music-free.

Another twenty minutes passed. I was beginning to think either I had been disconnected, or the customer service rep had forgotten about me. Then the tired, irritated voice came back on the line – this time sounding a lot more irritated. “Mrs. Tesch?”

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“Mrs. Tesch, our records indicate you just had the heating element replaced in December.”

December 2017I corrected the speaker. “December 2017.”

I heard the rep shuffling through some papers. “Oh, yeah, December 2017. Still, that’s only . . . what? 15 months ago? Why are you calling about it again? What’s the problem?”
eyes rolling
I sighed and rolled my eyes, even though I knew the other person couldn’t see me. “I should think that would be obvious. The problem is it’s not working again. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be calling for a repair technician to come look at it, would I?”

“Well, why isn’t it working?”
I scowled. “How should I know why it’s not working? Why don’t you just send a repair tech out here and let him determine why it’s not working?”

Completely ignoring that suggestion, the customer service rep proceeded to ask me questions. “Are you certain the heating element is plugged in?”

eyes rolling“Yes, I’m certain the heating element is plugged in.”

“Is the power switch in the on position?”

“Yes, the power switch is in the on position.”

eyes rolling“Are the ground-fault circuit interrupters tripped?”

“No, the ground-fault circuit interrupters are not tripped.”

“What about your circuit breakers?”

“None of the circuit breakers have been tripped.” I sighed. “Look, my husband and I have already checked out all the obvious things. We need a repair tech.”

I heard more shuffling of papers. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, we might be able to get someone out there next week. Or maybe we could refer you to another company?” The voice sounded hopeful.

I could almost feel the steam coming out of my ears. My voice dropped to a dangerous growl. “Look. By next week, the damage to the roof caused by the ice dams could be considerable and costly. We need someone here today.” When I got no response to that, I took a deep breath and pressed on. “Your company installed this system, and your repair techs worked on it last. So I suggest you get someone out here now.”

The voice responded, sounding considerably cowed. “Ah, yes ma’am. We’ll have someone there within the hour.”

Backyard 050MilesAfter hanging up the phone, I shared the details of the conversation with Miles, who looked impressed. “My wife, the tiger!”

I grinned. “Well, the tiger better go have a chat with her characters, so we don’t have a repeat of the last debacle! Care to accompany me?”

“Actually, no. I’d prefer not getting on the bad side of any of your characters, thanks.”

“Coward!” I gave Miles a quick peck on the cheek before scurrying off to round up my characters.

In less than 10 minutes, I had my characters rounded up and corralled in the conference room.

Elf facing rightCleric was the first to speak up. “Why did you wish to see us all here, Mistress? Is something wrong?”

I nodded. “There is a problem with the heating element in the rain gutters out front. The . . .”

Arrogant OneI was cut off mid-sentence. “Well, we certainly did not cause it!” My Arrogant One drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. My other characters nodded, and several muttered similar comments.

Dwarf“Aye, we be inn-o-sent, lass!” My Old Dwarf was beet-red, obviously upset at the notion he stood accused of anything.

I sighed and waved my hand dismissively. “I am not accusing anyone. I just wanted to let you all know the company is sending someone here to fix the problem.”dragon looking right

“The same repairmen they sent last time?” Dragon snickered.

I gave her a narrow-eyed glare. “I don’t know. What I do know is you are all to stay right here in the conference room until the repairmen finish their work and leave. I do not want a repeat of the trouble you caused last time.”

My Old Dwarf gaped at me. “But lassie! We just been tryin’ ta be helpful.”

I rounded on him. “Well, don’t. Just stay here, out of the way.”

My Old Dwarf’s face crumpled, and I almost felt bad about speaking so sharply. Almost. Until I remembered the murderous look in the dwarf’s eyes when Guy called him Gramps. And the looks on the repairmen’s faces when they witnessed Dragon change from her elf maiden guise to her true form.

“The repairmen will be here any minute. I don’t know how long it will take them to fix the problem. Not one of you is to leave this room until I come back here and tell you it’s okay. Understand?”

There was a lot of muttering and grumbling, but everyone nodded their understanding.

I headed up the stairs and had just reached the landing by the front entry when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find an old man standing there, squinting through his coke-bottle glasses at a clipboard.


“Can I help you?”

The man looked up, startled. “Eh?”

I sighed, perceiving his eyesight was not the only sense with which he had problems. I raised my voice. “Can I help you?”

He relaxed. “Oh, yeah, maybe you can. Are you Mrs. Tesch?”

I nodded. “That’s me.”

He smiled hesitantly, and flashed me his company identification. “I’m Crawford. I was asked to look at your heating element.”
I pointed at the rain gutter, festooned with icicles. “There it is.” I pointed to the cord and the power switch. “It’s plugged in, the switch is on, and my husband and I have checked the ground-fault circuit interrupters and the circuit breakers.”

CrawfordCrawford looked taken aback. “Well, seems you folks did half my job for me.” He looked at the rain gutter and squinted at the notes on his clipboard, then turned back to me, grimacing. I wasn’t sure if the expression was directed at me, or if the man just had a touch of indigestion.

Crawford 3Suddenly, Crawford seemed a bit startled. He looked over my shoulder and seemed to be squinting at something behind me. I glanced behind me, but saw nothing. I turned back. Crawford was looking directly at me and giving me a big smile. “Well, Mrs. Tesch, why don’t you give me about an hour or so, and I’ll see if I can’t get this little problem resolved.”

Somewhat confused, I merely nodded. “Okay.” I looked in the direction of his truck but didn’t see anyone else. “Do you need some help? My husband could . . .”

“Oh, no, ma’am! The company frowns on non-employees assisting us. Insurance and all that, you understand.” Another big smile.

He turned to begin work, and I went back inside and returned to my chores. I thought Crawford’s estimate of an hour to be optimistic. I figured it would take the old man, working alone, several hours to complete the job.

I was surprised when, only about 40 minutes later, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it.

Crawford stood there, a bill in one hand and a thick, flat cable in the other. “Here you go, ma’am. I replaced the heating element for you. The old one was damaged. It looks like a chipmunk or squirrel was gnawing on it, maybe last fall, and the melting snow just shorted out the unit. Happens all the time.” He showed me the damaged cable. I could see the bare wire and the scorch marks on the insulation.

After examining the damaged unit, I stepped outside and looked at the rain gutters and roof. The ice dams were gone, as was most of the snow.

“Wow! That was fast! How did you manage to clear all the ice and snow so quickly?”
Crawford 3
Crawford gave me a sly smile and a conspiratorial wink. “I have your friend to thank for that. Never could have done it without her.”

“My . . . friend?” I furrowed my brow and narrowed my eyes.

“Yeah.” He smiled again, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “You know, your dragon should get together with my griffin. I bet they’d have a grand old time together!”

Dragon and Griffon

Crawford leavingI gaped at him as he thrust the bill into my hand, turned, walked back to his truck, and hopped in. Before he drove away, Crawford rolled down his window and called back to me. “You know, there’s a great writers’ group that meets twice a month at the local Coffee Shoppe. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime. Be sure to bring your dragon!”

I stood gaping at the departing vehicle for several stunned moments. Then I turned and charged back into the house. “Dragon!

scaly dragon

Is it possible that other writers have had characters fall from their manuscripts? Hmmmmm. I guess we may never know for certain. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Armchair Birding Ten Days Before Spring

Armchair Birding Ten Days Before Spring

Elf facing rightPurgatory Creek and Staring Lake 099“It is only 10 days to the vernal equinox, the first day of spring.”

Dragon opened one sleepy eye and regarded Cleric with disdain.

“What? Am I incorrect?” Cleric blushed under Dragon’s glare.

Dragon in front of fireplaceSnowy deck“I do not know. I do not care.” Dragon rolled over to toast her other side by the heat of her illusory fireplace. “I do not understand the climate of this world. Spring, indeed! The temperatures are still frigid, and the snow is so deep you could lose a good size horse in the drifts!” She glanced out the French doors to the snow-covered deck and snorted. “In our world, spring meant green grass, flowers, birdsong, sunshine, and blessed, blessed warmth!”

“You and the Arrogant One should be glad you were absent from this world for a while. The temperatures while you were gone were brutal! What Mistress Writer terms the feels like temperature due to the wind chill factor was as much as 30 degrees below zero! Even the real temperature was below zero, though not by as many degrees.” Sorceress gathered her cloak closer around her and sipped from her cup of hot tea.

Dragon scowled. “Those numbers mean nothing to me. I do not comprehend the various systems of measurement they use in this world. Mistress Writer calls the temperature here degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of this world measure temperature in degrees Celsius. I do not know what comprises a degree, nor do I understand Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Cleric nodded. “I agree it is confusing. I only know it was positively numbing. Only Mistress Writer and Master Miles have ventured out of the house since you and the elf left for the other world, and they only go out when absolutely necessary. But even in the house, I can feel the chill.”

sorceress-facing-rightcup-of-teaSorceress placed her teacup on the end table. “The Foreman and the lads are getting quite cranky. They have been unable to work with their horses since the beginning of winter.”

Smoke drifting from Dragon's snoutunicorn“And I am so cold, my scales ache.” A cloud of black smoke drifted from Dragon’s snout. “I think we should all go back to visit the Lord of the Forest and the others in his world! It was tolerably warm there!”

I walked in in mid-conversation, but I had heard enough to comment. “From everything you told us about your recent adventure there, I’m not sure that would be a good idea. I must admit, though, the part about it being warm there makes it tempting. I can’t stand much more of this weather myself. And I don’t think the birds are very happy about it, either.”

I juggled several plastic containers as I struggled to open the door to the deck. “How about a hand here?”

Cleric jumped up and opened the door for me and grabbed half the containers from my arms. We went out and filled the various dishes and food stations around the deck with mealworms, assorted seeds, peanuts and grapes. We were hardly in the house again before a huge flock of birds descended to gobble up the food.

American Robins - overwintering flock (1)

Dragon birdwatchingDragon glanced out the door and her eyes widened. “So many birds!” She shrunk to the size of a housecat and clambered onto the back of the sofa to watch through the window.

Cleric nodded. “And they are all so hungry!”

“Well, it is extremely cold, so they need a lot of food to stay warm.” I watched them make short work of the mealworms and start on the peanuts and grapes. “They are ravenous today!”

“Yes, they seem to eat even more than your Old Dwarf.” Sorceress quirked an eyebrow and smirked.

Dwarf and hamAs if on cue, my Old Dwarf walked into the room, munching on some ham. He gave Dragon an affectionate look, then followed everyone’s gaze. “Wow! Thet be one big bunch o birdies!” He walked over to the doors and watched as the birds ate. “They be makin’ me hungry! When be lunch?”

I gaped at the rotund figure. “Lunch? You’re eating right now!”

“Eh, thet be jus’ a little snack ta be holdin’ me over.” He turned and walked toward the kitchen. “I be seein’ iffin yer mister be needin’ any help ta be fixin’ lunch.”

I shook my head and chuckled at the old reprobate.


I turned my attention to Cleric. “Hmmm?”

She tilted her head and scrunched her brow as she looked at the birds. “Are these birds all robins?”

I checked the flock and nodded.

American Robins - overwintering flock (2)

“Is that not unusual for Minnesota in the winter?”

“Well, I don’t know how unusual it is for the rest of Minnesota, but I have never seen such a large flock of overwintering robins in our neighborhood. Most winters, if we have any robins at all in our yard, there are only a few, never more than three or four. This winter, we have a flock that has grown from around 30 birds in December to almost 100 now.”

After a frantic few minutes, most of the food was gone. Cleric and I stepped out and refilled the plates and feeders, then returned to our seats to do some more birdwatching.

gypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy entered the room and came over to join us as the birds returned to the buffet. “Oh, robins! I love them. They display more variation in color and markings than most people notice.” He pointed to specific birds on the deck railing  as he commented. “Some are pale and have a great deal of white while others are deep brick-red on their fronts. And some have much more white around their eyes than others.”

Once the robins ate their fill and flew off, other birds ventured onto the deck, or waited their turn in the nearby trees. Cleric and my Gypsy settled into their favorite game of seeing who was quickest to identify the birds.

My Gypsy was first. “See the little brown bird on the dish, eating safflower seed? The rufous cap and line through his eye, the smudged dot on his chest, and the bi-color bill all tell me he is an American Tree Sparrow.”

American Tree Sparrow

The two companions looked to me, and my Gypsy grinned as I nodded in agreement with his assessment.

Not to be outdone, Cleric quickly identified some birds. “See the two birds on the posts and the one on the dish? The black cap and bib, the white cheeks, the gray wing feathers edged in white, and the stubby bill tell me these three are Black-capped Chickadees.”

I smiled and nodded. “One apiece. Who’s next?”

My Gypsy immediately pointed to another small bird on a post. “That bird also has a black cap and white cheeks, but no black bib. His longer bill, his white throat and belly, and his bluish-gray back tell me this compact little bird is a White-breasted Nuthatch.”
White-breasted Nuthatch
“Two for my Gypsy and one for Cleric.” I smiled approvingly at my two characters.

“Oh, look!” Cleric pointed to another bird that had just landed on the snowy railing. “Blue crest, black necklace, gray front, blue back, and various shades of blue with some black plumage on the wings and tail tell me he’s a Blue Jay, and there are two more in the trees.” She pointed again.

“Two-all. You’re both getting really good at identifying these birds!”

My Gypsy grinned, missing the opportunity to score another identification, as Cleric quickly continued. “Those three are Dark-eyed Juncos, also called snowbirds, as they are winter visitors here. They are mostly dark gray to black, with white bellies. They have white outer tail feathers, which, of course, you can only see on the bird sitting on the post. Oh, and they have pink bills.” She pointed to the birds, one on the post, one eating from a dish, and one pecking at some spray millet.

“You forgot to identify the sub-species.” My Gypsy gave her a smug look. “There are at least seven sub-species of Dark-eyed Juncos. These three belong to the Slate-colored subspecies.”

“I’d say you each get a point for that one. That puts you at three apiece.” I grinned.

My Gypsy immediately tried to pull ahead in the competition. “There are three female Northern Cardinals eating from the clay dishes.” He pointed, and continued, “See the short, thick bills, and the pale brown coloring, with tinges of red in their crests, their wings, and their tails?”

Cleric nodded, and quickly pointed to the trees. “And there are three male Northern Cardinals in the trees, waiting for their mates to finish eating. They have brilliant red coloring, long tails, and black masks. And one is singing!”

“Another point each! You’re doing so well!” I gave them both an encouraging smile.

Cleric beamed at the praise. “It is fun to practice our skills identifying the birds of your world, Mistress. While we knew most of the birds in our own world, everything was foreign to us when we found ourselves in your world.”

My Gypsy nodded. “Even after several years here, we still sometimes have trouble identifying some birds. For instance, I can tell the little woodpecker eating from the dish on the deck is a Downy Woodpecker. He is close enough that I can see he is very small and has a short beak relative to the size of his head. But there are three woodpeckers in the trees that look like Downies, but I cannot be sure. They might be the larger look-alike, the Hairy Woodpecker. From this distance, I cannot judge their size accurately, nor the relative size of bill-to-head.”

Cleric and I looked where my Gypsy was pointing. I turned to her. “Do you want to weigh in on this?”

Cleric nodded. “I believe all three are the smaller one, the Downy Woodpecker. Although there are no other birds near any of them by which to judge their size, they appear very compact to me. Also, while I am not positive, I believe I am seeing dark spots on their white outer tail feathers, which would confirm their identity as Downies.”

“Excellent! You both scored another point!”

My Gypsy furrowed his brow, obviously upset that he was unable to confirm the identities, but he quickly brightened when he saw another bird. “Well, I can see that bird in the tree well enough to identify it. A soft-gray bird with black spots on its wings, a long, thin tail, pink legs and a thin, slightly curved black bill – that’s a Mourning Dove!”
Mourning Dove
I nodded. “Very good! You just took the lead.”

“Oh, no! I do not suppose that one would count – an Eastern Gray Squirrel, who has chased all the birds from the deck!” Cleric frowned at the furry animal, then laughed. “I think he wants to know if we have any more peanuts. The birds did not leave any!”
Eastern Gray Squirrel (1)
“I don’t think we should put any more out right now, and you might want to suggest to the squirrel that he gets out of sight.”

No sooner had I said that when a hawk flew down from the tree, landing on the railing. The squirrel made a hasty escape into the bush next to the deck.

Cooper's Hawk (2)

“Oh, my! I am glad our furry little friend did not end up as this bird’s dinner!” Cleric gaped at the bird, who struck a regal pose. “Mistress, is this a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk?”

Cooper's Hawk (1)My Gypsy, eager to show off, did not even give me a chance to answer. “Oh, I know! This bird is larger than the average Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is only about the size of the Blue Jay we saw earlier. The eyes are close to the front of the head, and the feathers on his nape are lighter than his head feathers, giving him a capped look, rather than a hooded appearance. This is a Cooper’s Hawk.”

I nodded. “Yup, and the red eyes and the vertical barring tell us it is a full adult.”

There was a commotion on the deck, and we watched as a smaller hawk came and chased off the Cooper’s Hawk. The newcomer settled itself on a post and looked around.

Sharp-shinned Hawk (1)

Cleric tilted her head and studied the bird. “Oh, this hawk has yellow eyes and streaks rather than barring. This is a juvenile, is it not?”

“Yup. But a juvenile what?” I grinned.

Cleric chewed on her lower lip. “A Sharp-shinned Hawk?”

My Gypsy raised an eyebrow. “Are you certain?”

Cleric grinned. “Yes. This bird is smaller than the other hawk, and the barring is very large and bold. The barring on a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk would be thinner, finer. It is a Sharpie.”

We watched as the bird moved around, showing off its beautiful plumage.

Dragon frowned. “The Gypsy said a Sharp-shinned Hawk was about the size of a Blue Jay. While this hawk is smaller than the other hawk, it is noticeably larger than the Blue Jay we saw earlier.”

Cleric nodded. “It is probably a female. The female birds of prey are larger than the males. A female Sharp-shinned Hawk could be almost the same size as a male Cooper’s Hawk.”

I nodded. “Excellent! I am very impressed by both of you!”

My Gypsy frowned. “But which one of us won? Who identified the most birds?”

I reviewed the birds we had seen, and who had identified each one. “I think it was pretty much a tie.”

“Well, I will win next time.” My Gypsy squared his shoulders and set his jaw.

“We will see about that!” Cleric smiled.

Sorceress rose from her chair and beckoned us. “Right now, I think we should see if perchance lunch is ready.”

Dragon hopped down from the back of the sofa, resuming her former size before her feet hit the floor. “Only if I can move my fireplace into the dining room.”


We hope you enjoyed our winter armchair-birding adventure. Be sure to return every week to see what new adventures and misadventures await my band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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A Small Solution to a Big Problem

A Small Solution to a Big Problem

the knights pacedThe knights paced, wringing their hands and wincing at the sounds of Dragon’s screams. The beast continued to convulse, and cries of agony accompanied each tremor.

Sir Jenneseer 2“We must find a way to ease the beast’s pain!” Sir Jenneseer’s voice was raw with emotion. His furrowed brow and red-rimmed eyes mirrored the compassion and empathy for Dragon that was clearly etched on the faces of his companions.

sir daniver“I know of no way to help her.” Sir Daniver raked his hand through his hair and heaved a huge sigh. “The salve I applied to her wounds did little to alleviate the pain, and nothing to counter the cause. The drake’s venom is very powerful. It may prove fatal to friend Dragon.”

Sir Hrolf 2Arrogant OneSir Hrolf whirled and called to the Arrogant One, who was standing off to the side under a tree, scanning the hillside. “Elf! Is there nothing your magic can do for the beast?”

The Arrogant One scowled and shook his head. “I am not a healer. Even if I knew some basic spells of healing, I could not risk casting them. I still do not even know if the spell of concealment I cast worked properly.”

Sir Hrolf scoffed and slashed his arm downward in a dismissive gesture. “Surely it must have, else the drake would have been upon us by now.”

The elf sighed. “Mayhap. But, as I said, I am not a healer. Even if I was assured my magic would work perfectly, I do not have any skill in the healing arts.”

“But I know one who has such skill.” Sir Jenneseer spoke so softly, the others barely heard him. He repeated himself, louder.

Sir Daniver shook his head at his young charge. “Even if you know one, there is no way to safely leave this area to fetch a healer.”

The young knight blushed scarlet. “Not a healer, Sir Daniver. That is, not an ordained healer, like a cleric. But I do know someone who might help. And I am sure I can summon her here.”

The older knight gave him a quizzical look but brightened as the realization hit him. “Of course!” Sir Daniver smiled. “I had forgotten about your sister. She helped us search for the Lord of the Forest when we first discovered he was missing. She has healing powers?”
Summoning help
Sir Jenneseer nodded. “I am certain she does.” He reached into the pouch hanging on his belt and produced a stone, a heart-shaped piece of rose quartz. “She gave me this many years ago. She has its mate. We can communicate using the stones.”

Tasmin“There is no need, brother. I am already here.”

The three knights and the elf jumped and whirled to face the speaker, who stood just a few feet away.
Sir Jenneseer
“Tasmin!” Sir Jenneseer ran to his sister and embraced her warmly, then gently held her at arms’ length and gaped at her. “But . . . but how did you get here? And how did you know we needed your help?”

The hedge witch answered him with a tight-lipped smile. “The Lord of the Forest sent me news of your predicament. The unicorn provided me the formula and the ingredients for the antidote needed by yon beast. I will attend her. The four of you remain here.”

“Wait!” Sir Daniver’s eyes widened. “The Lord of the Forest lives? He is safe?”

“He is, but that is a tale for another time. Right now, your friend needs my help.”

* * *

Dwarf under weeping willowsThe Old Dwarf peeked out from under the branches of the stand of weeping willows. He had led the green drake down the hillside and across an expanse of forest. They had been playing cat and mouse for several hours, and the old warrior was tired. Iffins I kin jest be catchin’ me breath! He peered around but saw no sign of the monster. He leaned against the tree trunk and rested for another few moments. As he rested, he studied the deeply grooved trunk of the tree, and the easy handholds it provided. Nodding to himself, he grabbed hold of the tree and inched silently up the trunk and into the branches.

* * *

The green drake snaked through the underbrush, zeroing in on the scent of the frustrating creature he had stalked for more than two hours. Closer, closer, he edged toward the weeping willows and his quarry.

Gotcha! The drake pounced, but the rotund figure he had been stalking was gone. Impossible! Where did that little rodent go? The drake sniffed all around the weeping willows. The scent of the dwarf was strong, but the drake could not determine in which direction his small foe had gone. The creature growled and narrowed his eyes. Very well. I grow weary of this game. I will return to the hillside. The dragon should be dead by now, and the others will slake my appetite. The drake spread his wings and started to leap into the air, but a searing pain shot through his shoulder. He crashed to the ground, writhing in pain.

* * *

“Hehehe. Been ye lookin’ fer me, monster?” The Old Dwarf had caught the behemoth with his scalpel-sharp axe, neatly severing the tendons of one wing as the creature had been taking flight. “It jest be a real shame, be it not, thet I dinna be havin’ no poison ta be puttin’ on me blade.”

The dwarf dropped nimbly from the branches of the tree. He bent his knees as he hit the ground to absorb the impact of the fall, then he tucked his head and rolled onto his side. Then, he was up and running again, running for his very life, the wounded monster crashing through the trees right on his heels.

* * *

Hedge witchinjured dragonTasmin approached Dragon, carefully avoiding the convulsing beast’s flailing tail. She spread her arms and held her hands out, palm down, while she intoned an incantation. She felt another mind entering hers, and together the two minds tried to ease their way into Dragon’s mind. The intruding duo met with much resistance. Even mortally injured, Dragon’s will was strong. She fought the unknown invaders.

Sweat dripped from Tasmin’s brow, stinging her eyes. Her shoulders ached from holding her open-armed position. Still, she remained focused. She must reach Dragon and communicate. The beast’s life depended on it, as did her own, and the lives of her brother and his companions.

Slowly, the hedge witch and the mind linked with hers wormed their way through Dragon’s defenses. That’s right. Do not fear. We are here to help. Finally, Dragon understood, and quieted.

Tasmin took a large phial from her pouch and uncorked it. She slowly poured its contents into Dragon’s mouth, holding the beast’s head up. Be careful, my friend. Do not choke. And make sure you swallow every drop!

Tasmin gently eased Dragon’s head back onto the ground. The hedge witch stood and stretched. She beckoned her brother and his companions. “I have administered the antidote. The effects of the venom should soon be nullified. Then I will aid the beast in complete healing.”

“Aid her how?” The Arrogant One tilted his head and looked curiously at Tasmin.

Tasmin explained quickly. “As I am sure you are aware, in most circumstances, a dragon has the ability to heal itself of even the gravest illness or most terrible injury. But, in addition to her broken bones and torn flesh, your friend has been subjected to an almost lethal dose of poison from the green drake. It has slowed her natural ability to recover. I possess some skill as a healer. I will add my power to Dragon’s and help accelerate her recovery. I also act as a conduit for power greater than my own, power equal to Dragon’s. The Lord of the Forest will also lend his healing touch, through me.”

* * *

Return. Return to the clearing, to your friends.

dwarfThe dwarf cocked his head and tried to hear the voice. Eh?

Return to the clearing.

The dwarf shook his head at the voice in his head and continued running away from the clearing by the hillside. Nay! I canna be goin’ back ta tha clearin’! I canna be leadin’ this monster back ta tha udders, back ta tha beastie!

By the time you get to the clearing, all will be in readiness.
dragon looking right
Be tha beastie better? She do na be dyin’?

She is recovering.

Ye be tellin’ me true, you-nee-corn? The Old Dwarf puffed along, just ahead of the wounded drake.

Yes, venerable Dragon-friend. I am telling you the truth.

The rotund figure changed direction so fast he skidded right between the legs of his pursuer.

* * *

“We need to prepare our defenses.” Sir Daniver addressed the group. “Friend Dragon, it is good that you have recovered. You and the elf should prepare illusions, legions of dragons and knights, such as the ones with which you defended our castle last time you were in our lands.”Prepared   and

Dragon frowned. “That will not work against the drake, noble knight. He would immediately see the dragons and the knights were but illusion, no matter how solid and substantial they may be. It is one of the innate abilities of my kind.”

Sir Hrolf gasped and wiped the sweat from his brow. “We had been depending on that defense! If we cannot use illusion, what do you suggest? We certainly cannot use brute force. As mighty as you are, you were almost defeated by the drake in physical combat.”

Tasmin stepped forward, staring at the Arrogant One. “The elf holds the answer.”

arrogant one“What?”

Everyone gaped at the elf, who threw his hands up and gaped back at them. “I have no answers. If illusion will not work, what else have I to offer?”

The hedge witch gave the Arrogant One an enigmatic half-smile. “When the time comes, you will know what must be done.”

“Are you sure of this, Tasmin?” Sir Jenneseer gave his sister a sharp look.

“I am, brother. Do not worry. This is not just my opinion. I have it on good authority.” The hedge witch smiled again.

* * *

Green dragonDwarf facing rightThe Old Dwarf’s strength was flagging. His breath came in ragged gasps, and his heart pounded as if on the verge of bursting. Still, the rotund figure raced toward the hillside and the clearing beyond. He knew that one hesitation, one slip of a foot, one pause to take a breath, and he would be snatched up in the jaws of the monster that was so close on his heels, he could feel the drops of venom splashing from its maw onto his armor.

I be al’mos there. Jus’ a wee bit more an’ I be safe. The dwarf repeated those words like a mantra as he reached the hillside. With feet that felt like lead weights, the old warrior dropped to the ground and scrambled up the hill on all fours, grabbing saplings and grass and vines, and pulling himself up the steep incline. At the top, he somersaulted down the other side and into the clearing.

* * *

The others were waiting for the dwarf. As he tumbled into the clearing, Dragon snatched him and pulled him out of the path of the pursuing drake.

The drake, barely slowed by the almost-severed wing he dragged along, reared up to attack Dragon and the Old Dwarf, but the knights immediately set upon him. Unable to do any real damage, the knights still stabbed and slashed with their swords, harrying the monster and keeping him from his quarry.

As the drake whipped his tail around and swept his tormentors away, the Arrogant One leaped forward. Casting all doubt from his mind, the elf chanted a spell, articulating the words clearly and with confidence.

The drake roared. Within seconds, that roar was but a shrill whimper, as the hulking beast shrank to the size of a small terrier.

The elf grabbed the Old Dwarf. “Quick! Use your axe!”

Hardly aware of what he was doing, the dwarf brought his axe down, neatly severing the head of the miniaturized monster. The grizzled warrior promptly collapsed into Dragon’s arms.

* * *

Dragon and dwarfelf, knights, hedge witchMany hours later, the Old Dwarf awoke. He was in a luxurious bedchamber, on a cushiony mattress, his head on the softest of down pillows, with a warm comforter over his weary body. Dragon, in her favored guise of an elf maiden, was sitting next to him. The Arrogant One, the three knights, and a woman the dwarf did not recognize, were also crowded around the bed.

The old warrior sighed as he reached for Dragon’s hand. “Ye be na dead, beastie! Ye be na dead!” He patted her hand and gazed at her fondly, then abruptly scowled at her. “Do na e’er be doin’ thet ta me again! I ne’er been so afeared!”
Elf cleric close-upTasmin 2

Dragon laughed. “I am alive and well, thanks to Sir Jenneseer’s sister, Tasmin.” She gestured to the young woman, who nodded a hello to the dwarf. “Tasmin is a hedge witch with considerable healing power.”

The dwarf reached for Dragon, who helped her small friend into a sitting position. “Ah, thet be better.” He extended his hand to Tasmin. “I be right grateful ta ye, lassie.”

Tasmin blushed as she shook the dwarf’s hand. “I did have some help.”

The Old Dwarf looked around. “Wale, it be appearin’ likens we all be alive, though some o us be a bit worsen fer wear. Wot be happenin’ ta the drake?”

Dragon raised an eyebrow. “Do you not remember? The elf shrank him, and you decapitated him.”

“Ye been shrunkin’ ’em?” The dwarf looked impressed.

“It was a spell that created a small problem for me in the past (, but something . . . or someone . . . told me I could handle it this time.” The elf glanced over at Tasmin, who smiled.

“Wale I be plum speechless. Ye be right clever aboot thet, elfie!”

arrogant oneThe Arrogant One smiled smugly, looked down his nose at the dwarf, and stated calmly, “Do not call me elfie!”

Dwarf facing rightThe dwarf chuckled, then turned back to Dragon. “And where be tha you-nee-corn?”

“That is a long story, one I will share with you when we are back in the other world with Mistress Writer and the others. Speaking of which, come. It is time to go.”

After some heartfelt thank-yous and goodbyes were exchanged, Dragon, the Old Dwarf, and the Arrogant One left the castle and headed back to the spot where the Lord of the Forest would send them back whence they came.

* * *

That evening, we were all in the conference room. Dragon, my Old Dwarf, and my Arrogant One had related all that had transpired. Now, my Arrogant One was regaling his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter, (and anyone else who cared to listen) with the details of his exploits. Nearby, Dragon was back in her reptilian form, lounging in front of her illusory fireplace, a contented grin on her face. Flames periodically shot from her maw in the direction of my Old Dwarf, who giggled each time as he ducked behind his shield. “Ye be havin’ ta be faster than thet iffin ye be wantin’ ta be roastin’ me, beastie!” His eyes shined with affection and unwavering devotion for his old friend.

back home

Miles looked at me. “It’s good to have them all home again, safe and sound, isn’t it?”

I smiled and nodded.

Be sure to return each week to enjoy the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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